Despair or Hope?

Matthew 5

Hope, peace, and joy.  That is what I hear in today’s reading of Matthew 5.  No, it is not packaged the way I expect it to be.  Nor is it presented in a way that is particularly pleasant.  Think about it for a minute.  Jesus begins the chapter talking about the poor, the mourning and the meek.  These are the people, he says, that are worthy of God’s kingdom.  As I read through the list, I am not sure where I belong.  In fact, as I consider the list more closely, I am sure that I don’t belong.  Continuing to read, I wonder, am I a peacemaker?  Merciful?  Maybe I am pure in heart?  No, not really, I conclude.  Sure, they show up on some level, but none to which I fully identify.  Now, it really gets tricky.  The balance of Matthew 5 consists of Jesus pushing deep into morality.  He skillfully exposes that which I would rather keep hidden.

Am I salt and light?  Uh, well, I don’t know.  Does my righteousness exceed that of the scribes and the Pharisees (v20)?  Well….  Am I angry with my brother?  Do I call him a fool?  Has my right eye looked at something it shouldn’t and enjoyed it?  Have I taken an oath or ever wanted revenge?

Jesus knows the answer to each of these questions for all of us.  It is as true today as it was when he gave the sermon on the mount.  Thankfully, Jesus’ goal was not to spin me into despair and depression.  Nor was his goal condemnation.  No, Jesus carefully crafts the sermon on the mount to be sure that we find peace, hope, love and joy.  Thankfully, these results do not come from our perfection, our hours and hours of service to the kingdom, or our generous financial gifts.   No, none of these things will make our heart pure.  Only one thing will.  The perfect offering of Jesus Christ.  Hebrews 10:10 assures us, “we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”  2 Corinthians 5:21 explains this perfect sacrifice nicely.  It says, “for our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”  This, and only this, is the way to hope, peace, love and joy.